Suggested readings - Booktober 2023

Books that matter

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A reading list of books that shine a light on important concerns or argue for a better world.

All Our Relations

A powerful call for action, justice, and a better, more equitable world for all Indigenous Peoples.

‘A burning missive about what is happening now, on the ground, and what needs to be done to make for safe and healthy indigenous communities.’

—The Age

City on Fire

A long-term resident and expert observer of dissent in Hong Kong takes readers to the frontlines of Hong Kong’s revolution.

‘The most comprehensive book about the Hong Kong protests from a professional observer.’

—Ai Weiwei


An examination of the lives of whales, and through them the natural world, and our connection to it.

‘The book is a masterpiece.’


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Short stories to blow your socks off

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Alice Grundy is associate publisher at Brio Books and co-founder of Seizure, an incubator of Australian writing. For the past decade, she has worked in trade publishing with a focus on developing new talent. She has run workshops at festivals, universities and schools in Australia, India and China and written for the Sydney Review of Books, Overland and Books+Publishing.

Here are her recommendations for Booktober.

Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan 

Witty, prescient and superbly written.

Ordinary Matter by Laura Elvery 

High concept and beautifully executed.

Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven 

Original, moving and incredibly vivid.

Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui 

Tragi-comic, authentic and emotionally powerful....

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First Nations Books

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That Deadman Dance, By Kim Scott 

“It is a great book because it makes from an impossible situation a possible way forward. This is a moral achievement as much as it is an aesthetic or literary one. It’s what we demand from our greatest writers. It’s what history has demanded of Kim Scott.”

Winner for Miles Franklin Literary Award 2011.

Winner for ALS Gold Medal 2011.

Winner for Western Australian Premier's Book Award Western Australian Premier's Prize 2010.

Winner for Western Australian Premier's Book Award Award for Fiction 2010.

Winner for Victorian Premier's Literary Award Victorian Prize for Literature 2011.

Winner for Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Fiction 2011.

Winner for Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature...

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Western Sydney Young Adult

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James Roy One Thousand Hills

“One Thousand Hills is beautifully and insightfully co-authored by Roy and Zihabamwe, the latter having lived through the events of 1994 in Rwanda.”




Felicity Castagna The Incredible Here and Now

“…Castagna allows much bigger things – like grief, love and growing up – to shine in a way that is all too rare in many young adult novels.” —Victoria Nugent, Rochford Street Review

Winner of the 2014 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction

Shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia and NSW Premier's Literary Award

Deb Abela Grimsdon Trilogy; Book One: Grimsdon, ...

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Western Sydney Adult

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Mark O'Flynn The last days of Eva Langdon

‘The Last Days of Ava Langdon may be a novel, but it is also a perfectly judged poetic work … O’Flynn’s portrait of Langley/Langdon is deeply moving.’ —Book + Publishing 

Winner, 2017 The Voss Literary Prize 

Shortlisted, 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award

Shortlisted, 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Fiction

Felicity Castagna No More Boats 

It is exciting to read a work of fiction that makes an explicit connection between its characters’ personal narratives and the specific events of political history; a tradition in American fiction, but rare in an Australian context. (Delia Falconer)

Shortlisted, Miles Franklin Literary Award 2018

Shortlisted, Voss Literary Prize 2018


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Something new

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Every year WestWords offers three fellowships to give emerging Western Sydney writers an opportunity to develop a new work on the brink of publication. The fellowships, which are supported by the Cultural Fund - Copyright Agency, along with our residencies at Varuna: The National Writers House, offer support and mentorship, and many of these writers have seen their work achieve mainstream publication. Here is just a selection of the writers and the work they created whilst on the fellowship.

“Providing fellowships for western Sydney writers is an integral part of making sure that we hear, honour and support the diverse and dynamic stories of the region.”
Felicity Castagna: author The Incredible Here and Now, winner of the 2015 Prime...

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Children’s novels, the middle years, 10-13

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This list includes many award-winning titles that are well worth reading on many levels. They deal with important and highly relevant themes, especially  in our uncertain times. These include, friendship and relationships, coming to terms with change and developing a sense of our identity. Strong characters in many of these stories develop courage to speak up or undertake difficult tasks in worlds that are often challenging and unfriendly. 

While recommended for both for readers in the later primary and early secondary years the themes also resonate for adults. These recommendations are listed alphabetically. 

Constable, K. Crow country

A time travel fantasy. Sadie, a young Australian girl, and her mother move to a small...

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Picture book suggestions for readers, early years

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These picture books are some of my personal favourites: they are stories I love sharing and often read with children between 5 and 8 in both K-2 classrooms and with my grandchildren. And, of course, because there are many layers to these books, they are books that children enjoy as much as I do. The key themes of these books include wonder, imagination, friendship, freedom and hope. All are sorely needed in these uncertain times.

Several of these books are by well-established authors and illustrators others are the work of emerging artists and have been published more recently. All have been shortlisted titles, or have won major Australian awards. The recommended books are listed alphabetically.

Ayres, E. & Taher, R. Sonam and the...

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Poetry for these times and all times

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Poetry can be edgy, important and helpful in times of crisis. It offers new images to displace cliches, tools to break up old ideas that loop around in the same old ways. Poetry can take us to another place and offer oblique insights into the extraordinariness of ordinary moments. It connects us emotionally, take us beyond ourselves. It might bring solace but it will also bring surprises, shake us up, call us to account. The fragmented forms of poetry seem to be just the right size and space for these times. Approach a book of poetry like a divining rod – let it fall open anywhere and trust that something will speak back to you. Try this sampler of new Australian poetry, in any particular order. Read the poems out aloud.  


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